How to Do a Low-Carb Diet Correctly

Steak is permitted on a low-carb diet, but watch your saturated fat intake.
Steak is permitted on a low-carb diet, but watch your saturated fat intake. (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you’re interested in losing weight but not in giving up some of your foods, a low-carbohydrate diet might work for you. A study published in 2006 in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” deemed low-carb diets to be at least as effective as low-fat diets when it comes to weight loss. However, a low-carb diet isn’t always safe or healthy if it’s not done properly -- keep an eye on your total calories consumed, as well as the types of foods you eat, to make sure you’re losing weight in a healthful manner.

Limit Unhealthy Carbs

Different low-carb diets have various limitations on how many carbohydrates you should consume per day. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends limiting only high-glycemic index carbs -- those that raise blood sugar drastically -- but including low-GI carbs such as beans, certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods higher on the glycemic index include snack carbs such as pretzels, popcorn and crackers, white bread and bagels, white rice and pasta and potatoes.

Choose Healthy Protein and Fat Sources

When you limit one macronutrient, your intake of the other two -- protein and fat -- will naturally increase. However, not all fat and protein are created equal, so make healthful choices. For example, red meat is a good source of protein and fat; however, it’s rich in saturated fat. Fatty fish, on the other hand, provides a dose of protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Boost your consumption of low-fat protein sources such as poultry, beans and low-fat dairy products while increasing heart-healthy fat sources such as nuts, avocados, olives and olive oil.

Focus on Vegetables

One piece of common diet advice applies when you're going low-carb: Eat plenty of vegetables. Although veggies have carbohydrates, they also have a high fiber content. Include a salad with every meal -- avoid commercial salad dressings, as they often have a high sugar content -- and add other fiber-rich vegetables to your meals to ensure you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. They can also help fill you up without adding too many calories to your diet.

Low-Carb Doesn't Mean Low-Calorie

It doesn't matter which type of diet you choose -- if you eat more calories than you burn, you won't lose weight, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Learn how many calories your body needs to lose weight, and measure out your portions to ensure you're not overeating. Invest in a set of measuring cups and spoons and measure out your food while you're learning what proper portion sizes look like.

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